A cancer diagnosis can bring feelings of anger, sadness, fear and helplessness. Depending on the cancer type and stage, treatment plans can be aggressive and complicated in nature. A cancer survivorship care plan can help patients and their families in overwhelming and emotional times. These plans can keep diagnosis and treatments straight, as well as support the patient’s social and emotional well-being during and post-treatment.
Doctors Recommend Survivorship Care Plans
Around 10 years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that advised each cancer patient to work with their primary care physician to develop a personal care plan encompassing all aspects of their cancer treatment. Given the complicated nature of a cancer diagnosis and its associated treatment and effects—in particular, mesothelioma—developing a cancer survivorship care plan should be a top priority.
Your doctor may not advocate for the development of a care plan. It’s your responsibility as a patient to request the highest quality of care. By working with your primary physician, oncologist and other specialists, you can integrate all aspects of your treatment into one single, easy-to-follow care plan.
Benefits of Developing a Cancer Survivorship Care Plan
By putting together a cancer survivorship care plan, patients compile information about their treatment and organize it all so it makes sense.
Laying everything out in this way offers the following benefits of a cancer survivorship care plan:
- Reduce the burden and stress of your care on yourself, along with your family and friends
- Increase your knowledge surrounding your diagnosis, also known as medical literacy, which has been shown to increase recovery time and survival rates
- Prepare you mentally for any short or long-term effects of treatment, supporting your emotional well-being and reducing the chance of anxiety and depression
- Reduce the chance of forgetting your medications or missing an appointment or treatment
- Provide you with post-treatment self-care tools and resources for any physical, emotional or practical issues that arise
- Remind you that you still have control over your life, which can reduce anxiety and increase independence
What Should Be Included in Your Cancer Survivorship Care Plan?
Having a detailed and thorough care plan is very important. This plan will not only be helpful to you, but also to the varying doctors, oncologists and specialists providing your care. Various cancer care plan templates are available online, but each patient’s experience will be different.
If you don’t find a template that fits your needs, you can create your own, but try to ensure the following information is included:
- Primary Notes About Diagnosis and Treatment: The first section of your care plan can be filled with primary notes about your diagnosis and treatment plan that can be updated as you learn more about your disease throughout your cancer journey.
- Medical and Family History: You should then record your personal information, as well as any and all history of cancer within your family. The more information you can collect on your family’s cancer history the better (the type of cancer found and age of diagnosis).
- Information on Care Team Members: Next, you need to collect information about your care team, which will include your primary doctor and oncologist along with any surgeons, specialists or other care providers (dieticians, therapists, massage therapists etc.) you work with.
- Treatment Types: Your care plan should go into detail about your treatment plan, which may include the type of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy treatments you will undergo along with information on ports and clinical trials.
- Treatment Specifics: Within each treatment you should record when and where it will be taking place (‘where’ meaning the treatment facility as well as location on your body), how long the treatment will last for, the professional who will perform the treatment, dosage specifics (if necessary), any potential side effects and a self-report documenting all reactions or problems following treatment.
- Medications and Prescriptions: Within your treatment plan, record any and all medications you were prescribed, including how often you are required to take them, when you started taking them and when you are supposed to stop.
- After-Treatment Care Requirements: The last, but potentially the most important part of your care plan is your after-treatment care. This section of your plan will run through the care and support you will require post-treatment. It also gives you an opportunity to ask your care providers about the long-term side effects of treatment and how they can be managed.
You should also ask your primary care provider how often you should see them, along with your oncologists and other members of your care team. Apart from your physical health, you should also raise any emotional or social concerns you have with your doctor, so they can recommend other professionals to support your long-term care.
Developing a cancer survivorship care plan may seem like an overwhelming task. But once completed, the information in this plan will ensure you receive the highest quality of care to address your short and long-term needs along your cancer journey.